Piano Lessons

When I was a kid, I told my mom that I would start piano lessons after I finished painting lessons. On the one hand, I never really "finished" painting lessons in the sense that I had learned everything there was to know about the art. On the other hand, for the final two or three years that I took the lessons, I (or rather my parents) was (were) basically paying for studio time rather than instruction. In any event, when I eventually stopped taking painting lessons, it wasn't piano but journalism that filled the gap in my schedule.

In fact, I stopped taking painting lessons at about the same time I stopped playing the flute, which was just when I was starting to get good at the instrument. I haven't done much musically since then except for an occasional participation in a pick-up chorus of one sort or another.

Now, however, I live in a house with a living roomfull of keyboard instruments and convenient proximity to a relative who is an accomplished organist and professional piano teacher. For all those years that I kept putting off my mom on the subject of piano lessons, I held in my mind the idea that I could always learn piano when I grew up. Like she had. And now, I am. (Grown up? Really?)

It's actually somewhat convenient to be soooo out of musical practice that I'm having to relearn how to read the musical staff. It removes the temptation to learn the bass clef by transposing the treble clef, because my mastery of the treble clef has eroded too much.

It feels like the process of learning to speak a language before you've learned to read it. I see symbols on the staff and know they mean to put a certain combination of fingers down on a certain combination of keys. If I really concentrated on it, I could tell you the names of those notes, but I don't "read" then notes before I play them. It's a good exercise for someone as cerebral as I. It was a delightful experience last night to laboriously plunk through "Jesus Loves Me," finding that my fingers could find the right notes even when my head wasn't quite keeping up with identifying the intervals.

I'm still marveling at the keyboardist's facility to do different things with each hand -- even several different things with both hands. (And that's before you add the feet for the organ pedals.) I'm having a little trouble getting used to playing the same notes with my little finger on my left hand as I would use my thumb for on the right, and vice versa -- it's as though my subdominant hand has to do everything the dominant hand does, but backwards and in high heels, as it were. But marvel of marvels, it works!

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